The Scramble for Somalia

Since 2011, a number of regional powers have been in a scramble for political and economic influence in (Southern) Somalia. Many of these foreign engagements have come with serious threats to Somalia’s territorial integrity and the capacity of the Federal Government to effectively influence regional governments.

Kenya has strong relations with Jubaland, and prefers a weak federated Somalia. Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are keen on working with the breakaway region of Somaliland. Somaliland, of course, is thriving as a free electoral democracy with functional institutions.

Turkey and Qatar are focused on supporting the Federal Government and investing in Mogadishu and its environs. And Qatar’s Gulf rival, the UAE, is interested in working with the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, against the wishes of the Federal Government.

It is fair to say that the conflicting interests and goals of Somalia’s friends are not helping the wider stabilization effort under AMISOM.

So far Turkey is miles ahead of every other regional powers in terms of economic influence in Mogadishu. This reality is causing a lot of angst among Gulf states eager to cut Qatar, an ally of Turkey, to size.

Turkey and Qatar will likely win this race.

Turkey invested in Somalia early (since 2011) and in a diversified fashion:

Turkish money and aid – delivered directly to key stakeholders in the Somali Federal Government – ingratiated Turkey with local power brokers and provided Ankara with access and power in Mogadishu. What soon followed is Turkish control and management of Somalia’s most lucrative assets, the airport and seaport.

Parallel to these were unilateral rebuilding efforts, offers of scholarships, renovations of hospitals, and the hosting of international conferences about Somalia. These have largely contributed positively to Somalia’s development and yielded the international acclaim and diplomatic clout craved by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coterie.

 

tunisians run their president out of town

Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has fled the country. The Prime Minister went on television on Friday night and announced himself the new president. The NY Times reports:

The apparent fall of Mr. Ben Ali, whose authoritarian government ruled for more than two decades, would mark the first time in recent memory that widespread demonstrations had overthrown an Arab leader.

The UK Guardian reports:

Opposition leader Najib Chebbi, one of Ben Ali’s loudest critics, captured the sense of historic change. “This is a crucial moment. There is a change of regime under way. Now it’s the succession,” he said.He added: “It must lead to profound reforms, to reform the law and let the people choose.”

The events in Tunisia might have ramifications in the wider Middle East and North Africa region. Regimes in Algeria and Egypt are potentially the most vulnerable. Egypt has presidential elections later this year while Algeria has been experiencing disturbances in the Annaba province.

We might be seeing the beginning of the end of the peculiar fact that there is not a single Arab democracy in the world.